Saturday, February 26, 2011

Greengage Tart

One of the women that I most admire is Jane Asher, a British actress, cake decorator extraordinaire, designer of inventive fancy dress costumes, and 60s icon.  When reading Jane's bio, I learned that she acted in a film called The Greengage Summer when she was just 14 years old.  I then learned that the film was based on a novel of the same name by Rumer Godden.  Now I had never heard of a greengage before, and wanted to know what it was.  I learned that a greengage is an old variety of plum, also known as Reine Claude, and commonly grown in France (which is where The Greengage Summer is set).  There is a lovely blog post about the greengage plum here.

In a strange coincidence, I was flicking through my newest cookbook, Pastry - Savoury and Sweet by Michel Roux, when I came across a recipe for Greengage Tart on p60.  The tart looked wonderfully luscious, and I bemoaned the fact that I was unlikely to ever find the mysterious greengage, as I had never seen them before.  However, the gods were smiling on me, for the same day, I found greengage plums in the David Jones Foodhall.  Initially I ignored them (as they were rather pricey), but three days later, I raced into DJs and bought myself enough plums to make the Greengage Tart.  Aren't they beauties:

I was so excited by my find that I told my Mum about greengages on the phone.  She was completely unphased - apparently, her parents grew them, so she knew exactly what  they were.  Drat!  I thought I was telling her about an exotic new ingredient, while Mum grew up preserving them.

However, greengages in hand, I made the wonderful tart in Michel Roux's book. And I am in love!  This tart was devine.  My taste tester Sandra confirmed it for me (just in case I was fooling myself because of my girly crush on greengages).  It is comprised of a thin, barely there flan shell filled with creme patisserie and topped with halved greengages, then baked until the greengages are soft.  The greengages have a sweet, honey-like flavour, and are very juicy.  The closest taste I can think of is green grapes.  The sweet plums on the smooth vanilla custard is a dream combination.

To make this, I suggest making the creme patisserie first, as it needs time to cool.  To make the creme patisserie, you will need:

3 egg yolks
75g sugar
20g plain flour
250ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the eggs and 25g sugar in a bowl until light and creamy.  Whisk in the flour.

Place the milk, the rest of the sugar and the vanilla into a saucepan, and bring the milk just to the boil.  Remove from the heat.

Pour one quarter of the milk into the egg mixture in a slow steady stream, whisking as you go, then add the egg mixture into the rest of the milk, continuously whisking.  Place the milk back over the heat, and whisk continuously  until the creme patisserie has thickened, then place it into a clean bowl, press a layer of cling film against the surface of the creme patisserie, and refrigerate it until cold.

To make the flan shell, you will need:

125g plain flour
75g butter, cut or grated into small pieces and softened
(I use salted butter so that I don't need to add more salt)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Enough chilled water to make a dough

Put the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle.  Put the egg, butter and sugar into the well, and mix those ingredients inside the well with your fingers or a spoon until well combined.

Using your fingers, gradually blend the flour into the ingredients in the well until you have a crumb like mixture.  Add chilled water, a small bit at a time, and mix it into the dough with your fingers until the dough comes together and is smooth.  Press the dough into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour before using.

On a floured work surface, roll out the flan dough to ~4mm thick.  Line a greased 9 inch tart pan with the flan dough,and prick the base of the flan with a fork.  Allow the flan to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes:

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.  Whisk the chilled creme patisserie to loosen it, then spread it in an even layer into the base of the flan shell:

Halve the greengages and remove the stone:

 Arrange the greengages on top of the creme patisserie, cut side down:

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then sprinkle 15g sugar on top of the tart, and return it to the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for a further 10 minutes.  Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

The tart can be served warm or at room temperature.  I also ate it chilled from the fridge, and any which way, it was fabulous.  Now, how to get a hold of more greengages ...


Anonymous said...

Wow. This looks really delicious and bright! I've never heard of greengages, so this should be interesting to see if I can find them stateside.

Johanna GGG said...

tart looks superb - I don't think I have had a greengage before but this is exactly the sort of thing my mum would say - feels like full circle when you are rediscovering the food of your family

cocoa and coconut said...

I've never heard of 'greengages' or 'greengage' tart but it certainly looks delicious. Any tart is good in my book.

adele said...

What a marvellous-looking tart!

I've heard of greengages (seen in British children's literature), and I ate reine-claude plums in France, but I never put two and two together. Good to know. :)

Elaine said...

I have never heard of a greengage plum before either. Your tart looks fabulous! I love how someone you admire inspired you not only to research and discover a new fruit, tart, but also inspired you to bake one. Beautiful post!

pigpigscorner said...

I had my first taste of greengages last year and I was surprised by thte sweetness of it as I was expecting something sour.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I remember trying that Delicious Death cake that Jane wrote the recipe for (that I found here!) and I was so impressed at how totally accurate her recipe was! It was the most accurate recipe I've tried!

The Caked Crusader said...

I love greengages - this tart looks amazing.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of greengages, but now I want to try them! I have that cookbook and I think I've only made one thing from it so far, but it's a lovely book.